7-0 with seven career finishes, Joey ‘Mama’s Boy’ Pierotti of Enumclaw, Washington has been competing professionally for 19 months, and has already established himself as one of the top prospects out of the Pacific Northwest. A professional firefighter by trade, Pierotti’s rise through the ranks at welterweight will have put him on the map for some the United States’ biggest promotions.
Still, it’s unlikely that Joey will relish hanging up his bunker gear. As Joey told The MMA Vanguard in an exclusive interview, he’s not only proud to represent the service, but he’s worked extremely hard to get there.
“I am 100% still a full time professional firefighter,” Joey told us. “It’s a job that I’ve been chasing after for about 4 years. Very competitive. I’m very proud of the profession, what we do, and the people I get to work with.”
After all, iron sharpens iron, and as with other emergency services and indeed the armed forces, it’s not just about being physical and mental toughness, it takes real bravery to do what they do. Still, if his progress in MMA continues at such a rapid pace, there may come a time when it may no longer be possible to dedicate fully to both careers simultaneously. For now, though, Joey remains thankful for the support he gets from his colleagues in pursuit of mixed martial arts glory.
“They have never really clashed in a negative fashion,” he said of the parallel occupations. “I’ve got full love and support from everyone at the station, as I do from my actual family. They love to come to the fights and support, but at the same time they’ve never had someone work with them who’s ‘hobby job’ is beating people up. They want the best for me, but also don’t want to see me get hurt. So there’s a little bit of grey area when it comes to work and the fight game.”
The ‘fight game’, as Joey calls it, seemed destined to find him just as much as his own destiny was to compete in it at a high level. It started with wrestling.
“I started wrestling much later than a lot of the local top notch guys in my area did,” Joey told us. “I’d always rough housed with my older cousins and what not, but didn’t really know it was a sport until my stepdad came into the picture and told me to give it a shot. I was hesitant at first because of the thin layer of Lycra separating you from another person…. but I gave it a shot and loved the competition side of it.”
“I loved the team aspect just as much as the one-on-one [competition]. It’s one of the few sports where you are really in charge of your own destiny. There’s nobody else to cast blame on, if you don’t put in the work it shows. That’s something Mom instilled in me at a very young age. We both knew I wasn’t the most naturally gifted athlete, so I would have to outwork everyone. [That’s a lesson] I’ve carried with me and gotten me to where I am today, both in fighting and life in general.”
Joey’s Mom, as his handle suggests, is a major figure in his life. Her approval of a career as a fighter was likely as pivotal to Pierotti as anything else at that point, and the work ethic Joey talks about has been evident every step of the way. It carried Joey to wrestling success at high school level, as well as in the collegiate ranks, though the path was far from straight forward.
“I was a state runner up my junior year, and was captain my senior year of high school when we won our first ever team title as well as myself capturing an individual state championship. I went on to wrestle at Wyoming for a semester, but due to my Dad passing away a couple months prior and my Mom being diagnosed with non Hodgkin’s lymphoma around the same time, I was too anxious being so far away from everyone. So my cousin helped me get all of my ducks in a row and transfer to North Idaho college. I qualified for nationals there, but that was about the extent of my collegiate career.”
Recalling his amateur MMA debut, Joey isn’t overly impressed with how things went. If he describes his career, currently, as a ‘hobby job’, back then it was probably simply a ‘hobby’. As he explained:
“Honestly, my first fight was a shit show. I was home from college and wanted to do something to stay in shape, I also had never been in any sort of fight at this point in time so I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone and try my luck with MMA. I used to round up a few of my buddies and sneak them into a local gym where my training consisted of just sparring, one friend after another. I had my step dad, uncle and a buddy corner me in the fight. Two of the three lost their heads and were just yelling the most obscure things,” Joey told us.
“My uncle kept a cool head about him and was able to help me strategize a little bit from what I can remember. I don’t remember much from that fight due to a possible concussion and the inevitable adrenaline dump, but I won. My Mom really enjoyed the competition aspect of it all, but still didn’t want to see me get hurt. So she said I could keep fighting until I lost. And here we are today, however many fights later, still winning.”
Whether the first loss would still have the same ramifications for Joey’s Mom today is another matter, but in spite of facing several undefeated opponents throughout his amateur and professional career, Joey’s ‘oh’ has yet to go. Of Joey’s recorded 4-0 record as an amateur, Joey commented:
“The amateur record sounds close. I think it might have been closer to 6-7 wins 0 losses. But all records show something different. I had a couple big challenges I was faced with as an amateur. After my first fight I got with Jeff Hougland out at combat sport and fitness in Enumclaw, Washington. After my first fight under his guidance I was looking to roll right into another and in the middle of a sparring session I went to throw someone and in the process pulled them on top of me. They landed head first right into my jaw. I was side lined for about a year due to surgeries, infections and more surgeries. Finally I got the clearance to go again and Jeff got me lined up with a title fight. I won via TKO in the 2nd round. The next was after I got hired on by the Port of Seattle Fire Department. I had to take a year off to complete all of my training and I bounced back after another year, went up a weight class and fought a top middleweight at the time and took his title via unanimous decision. All obstacles that I’ve overcome and helped mould me.”
Those years off, and the all of the hard work surrounding circumstances of which some were beyond his control, have, like Joey says, crafted him into the man and fighter he is today. Jeff Hougland, too, has played a huge role in Pierotti’s development, and the pair have never shied away from a challenge.
After a pair of stoppages kick-started Pierotti’s professional career in the first half of 2016, Joey took on 10-fight veteran Taki Uluilakepa, a former Super Fight League and Titan FC fighter of Tongan origin. It took the full extent of Taki’s experience to push Pierotti past the first round, but Joey would secure a second round submission victory and advance his record to 3-0. While there would have no doubt been easier contests, Pierotti continued to push himself, facing three further opponents with a combined record of 12-1. He commented:
“Jeff and I aren’t trying to pad our record here, as I improve so do my opponents. I’ve been fortunate enough having Jeff, who has the same vision for myself as I do, to help push me and get extra work in to make sure we stay ahead of the game. As the fighters have gotten tougher and the level of competition is raised, so [my skills and performances have improved], and we’ve been ahead of the curve so far. We’ve been able to put away all of my opponents, as a professional fighter, within 3 rounds.”
Indeed Pierotti counts his fourth opponent as his toughest to date. A fight under the Super Fight League banner, Joey came within eight seconds of troubling the judges for only the second time in his pro or amateur career – but courtesy of superior striking and a debilitating left hand, Pierotti was able to beat the final bell, in spite of some confusion surrounding the ten second left signal. As Joey states:
“My toughest fight to date was against Richard Brooks out of Las Vegas. He was a much better wrestler than I was,” Joey admits. “My initial game plan had to be changed. Luckily Jeff and I are always working on not only improving my strengths and what got us to where we are today, but more importantly working on my weaknesses. The goal is to never be in a position and think ‘oh shit, what am I supposed to do here?’”
Fortunately, despite Brooks’ acumen, that was not the case, and Pierotti’s drive, determination, work rate, and strategic planning all paid off.
“[For this fight], my girlfriend also flew all the way out here from Boston to watch her first fight,” Joey told The MMA Vanguard, “So naturally I wanted to Impress her. How we met is a whole other story in itself!” He teased.
So what’s next for Joey in professional MMA?
“However far the next level up will take us. I want to make it to the UFC and see how far I can go and how high I can climb. Sign me up Dana White!”
The MMA Vanguard would also like to extend an endorsement to all major, global promotions – having rattled off a further three straight stoppage wins since the Brooks outing, Pierotti is now an impressive 7-0, with 50-plus fight veteran Daniel McWilliams the latest to be outclassed just a couple of weeks ago.
If ever there was a worthy competitor, and a talented fighter, it would be Joey ‘Mama’s Boy’ Pierotti!